When Iomega introduced the Iomega Zip drive and its 100-megabyte floppy disk in 1995, they accomplished three remarkable feats.
First, they moved the idea of removable mass storage from the realm of artists, desktop publishers, and MIS types into the mainstream; second, they single-handedly defined a (the?) new high-capacity floppy disk standard. Third, and most impressively, they proved that good marketing and good design can beat better specs in a fight.
Until the Zip came along, SyQuest pretty much owned the removable media market, thanks to their removable hard disks. Even after the introduction of the Zip drive, SyQuests were (and still are) faster and had a higher capacity than the Zip.
Iomega were smart: they made the Zip drive more portable and easier to install than any SyQuest drive before or since, and they sustained an advertising campaign which not only touted their drives but emphasized why the average user would want to use removable media--something SyQuest has never done.
The strategy worked well. Even after SyQuest introduced the EZ-135 and EZFlyer--both of which cram more information into about the same space, and at faster access and transfer speeds, to boot--they never caught up to the Zip, which remained unchanged for two years.
Unchanged, that is, until now. Say hello to the ZipPlus.
The original Zip drive, while quite elegant, did have a few design flaws. The most noticeable was its speed, or lack thereof. Then there was the port problem: the drive came with either SCSI or parallel ports. Parallel ports are more convenient for DOS/Windows people, and SCSI ports are more convenient for everyone else. If youíre someone who works between PCs and other machines, youíre in a bind. Do you pick SCSI, which is significantly faster, or parallel, which is significantly more prevalent? This isn't a problem unique to the Zip, but it's a problem nonetheless.
The ever-crafty Iomega came up with a good solution: they tweaked the drive here and there, added a few features, bundled more software, and called it the ZipPlus. It costs a little more, but I think the improvements are worth the extra bucks.
First of all, the drive is noticeably faster than the original Zip (Iomega claims a 40% speed increase under Windows 95). Itís still not as quick as, say, a SyQuest--again, a true hard drive mechanism wins out--but only the extremely impatient will care.
Next, they solved the parallel/SCSI dilemma, by allowing the drive to deal with both. Using a neat trick they call AutoDetect, the same 25-pin port can be used for either a parallel or SCSI connection; the pass-through (for another parallel or SCSI device) can be used for either kind of device, depending on what the ZipPlus is currently plugged into. Very clever, but there is a minor catch. The documentation says that the ZipPlus must use the supplied AutoDetect cable in order to work--a standard parallel or SCSI cable just wonít work. This was a big deal for me, as I already have chains of SCSI and parallel devices; this prompted a little more rearranging than I cared for.
A less important but still welcome change is the new power supply. The old Zip power supply seemed like a brick compared to the featherweight drive. The ZipPlus power supply is only about twice as wide as your computerís plug. They also got around to putting in a power switch (which their literature says makes it more "energy efficient"--um, like 99% of the electronic devices in the world?).
Just for good measure, Iomega threw some software into the box, too. The Zip Tools (for backups, diagnostics, and such) are still there, and theyíve also thrown in a full-featured versions of DataViz WebBuddy, PictureWorks NetCard, Digital Arts & Sciences ImageAXS, Iomega RecordIt, and the ubiquitous Adobe PhotoDeluxe. Considering PhotoDeluxe alone usually sells for about $70, this is a pretty good deal.
And so, once again, my hat is off to Iomega. They've made a great product even better, and kept the installation and ease of use at a level where even a novice would feel comfortable. SyQuest, are you listening?